Child Custody And Visitation

How does the courts decide on custody and visitation?

If you have children, then challenges can arise regarding custody and visitation.

California law distinguishes between legal custody and physical custody.

Our state law prefers a "joint legal custody" order, where both parents are involved in major decisions affecting a child. These decisions can include major medical procedures, schooling, religious training, etc.

Physical custody essentially involves who will be providing the "roof" over the child's head. Absent the parents' prior agreement on the matter, a court will award primary physical custody to one party based upon the court's perception of what would be best for the child. The non-custodial parent is then often given liberal visitation rights on either a flexible schedule or on a rigid/fixed schedule basis. Of course, it is usually in the best interest of the child for the parents to agree on the child's living and visitation arrangements.

In cases where there is a dispute about physical custody or a visitation schedule, the court will require the parents to meet with a court counselor informally to discuss those issues. Even though the results of such informal meetings are not in the form of a court order, they often settle custody and visitation problems. Nevertheless, if a settlement cannot be reached, the court can decide the case after listening to the parties and any witnesses (which may even include the child).

In more heated or complicated custody cases (e.g., one party moving away due to work or remarriage, accusations of parental misconduct, etc.), the court can order an investigation to be made. These mandated investigations, done at the parties' expense, are completed by a public or private social worker. Such an investigation is very thorough, and generally includes visits to both homes, interviews with the child, reports from schools and doctors, and interviews with neighbors and character witnesses. After the social worker concludes the investigation, a report is sent to the judge who often follows the social worker's recommendations.

If you would like to discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys then Contact Us today.